What a difference three weeks can make.
On October 8, catcher Luis Campusano was appearing as a pinch-hitter for the San Diego Padres in the National League Division Series. Leading up to that moment, his team had ridden a surge of young talent to its first playoff appearance in 14 seasons.
Despite COVID-related complications looming as a threat to the entire league, baseball’s 2020 season somehow managed to continue largely unaffected. As a result, a strong Padres squad was able to solidify a playoff berth.
First up was the St. Louis Cardinals, who the Padres bested in a best-of-three series. Next: the always dangerous Los Angeles Dodgers. Down 2-0 in the best-of-five matchup, Campusano struck out. The Padres would ultimately go on to lose the game, and the series.
If there is one bright side to a disappointing playoff finish, it’s the promise of some well-deserved time away from the diamond. In Campusano’s case, that meant returning home to Augusta, Georgia. Unfortunately for the 22-year-old catcher, his state of origin has a far different outlook on cannabis than his adopted home in California.
As the San Diego Union Tribune reports, Campusano learned this difference the hard way when he was arrested on Saturday, October 22, in Grovetown – a city located nearby to Augusta – on suspicion of felony marijuana possession.
“According to the police report,” the Tribune noted, “79 grams of marijuana [were] discovered in Campusano’s car when he was pulled over shortly after 5 a.m.”
That amount, which equates to roughly 2.8 ounces, is more than double the felony limit of one ounce (28.35 grams) under Georgia law. Punishable by up to ten years in prison, the punishment for those caught with cannabis is drastically harsher when compared with what would’ve happened were Campusano’s arrest to have occurred in California.
If the Padres catcher – currently the organization’s second-ranked position prospect – had been busted in the Golden State, he would’ve faced a misdemeanor possession charge owing to the quantity. While California law restricts personal possession to one ounce, the likelihood of Campusano actually being sentenced to any jail time (with the maximum being six months) is next-to-zero. One can more easily imagine the $500 fine being imposed, however.
The Tribune reports that Campusano was released on a $5,000 bond after he was charged with “purchase/possession/manufacture/distribution/sale” of a controlled substance. They also included a quote from the Padres organization, who issued the following statement in response to their catcher’s arrest:
“We were recently notified of the arrest of Luis Campusano in his hometown of Augusta, Ga. this past weekend. We are gathering information and have been in contact with MLB and local authorities. As this is a pending legal matter, we will not have any further comment at this time.”
What happens next remains to be seen.
As reported this February, Major League Baseball officially removed marijuana from its banned-substance list during the offseason. However, as ESPN’s Jeff Passan noted, prior to the start of the season, MLB officials “told teams that players remain subject to potential discipline for using or possessing the drug, according a memo obtained by ESPN.”
This puts Campusano in an awkward position, both with law enforcement in Georgia as well as with his employers. But is that fair?
Perhaps the easiest way to draw an apt contrast is to consider the situation with alcohol substituting for cannabis. As we all know, booze is legal in the U.S. provided those drinking and selling it are at least 21 years of age. As a result, Campusano would’ve had no issues driving around with a case of beer in his car, whether his wheels were in Georgia or California.
We can also all agree that data has rather definitively proven that people do drink and drive, and that when it happens, people die as a result. By contrast, we have absolutely no evidence to suggest a similar trend with regards to cannabis and driving. That isn’t to encourage irresponsible behavior but simply to underscore the absurdity of Campusano’s current situation. The sad truth of the matter is that, were Campusano to have been arrested for, say, a DUI, he would be in less trouble now.
For concrete proof, look no further than recent news of Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon’s recent DUI arrest. Pulled over for driving drunk earlier this month, Gordon is now expected to face no disciplinary action from his team.
“He’ll continue to play for the Broncos indefinitely,” reported ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio, “last week’s DUI arrest notwithstanding. Despite some initial belief that the Broncos may discipline Gordon, the team has since realized that the league has jurisdiction over these matters, and that the team must stand down.”
While Florio’s reporting leaves open the possibility that the NFL may yet take action against Gordon, the contrast between what Gordon’s faced for breaking a law universal to all 50 states and what Campusano might endure for having pot in the wrong place speaks to the work, both legislative and educational, that remains to be done.